In The Last Word, we sit down with an industry expert to share their wealth of knowledge. In the 2023 January/February issue, the conversation features Sue Glass, the president and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Denver.
1. How did you get started in the community recreation industry?
I became passionate about health and wellness as a result of my own health journey. Additionally, as a young adult I had access to the YMCA, which is where my love for wellness began. I earned a degree in health science and community health. After college, I served as the wellness manager for a local hospital where I once again interfaced with the YMCA around corporate wellness. It was at that time I set a goal to work for the Y one day. My career trajectory took me to the nonprofit industry where I worked for the American Diabetes Association for 21 years. Four years ago, I was humbled to be selected as the first woman CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Denver in its 143-year history.
2. What’s been a key to your team’s success? What are you most proud of?
The ability to embrace change and innovation to achieve a shared vision has been key to our success. As a new CEO, my goal was to establish a “North Star,” much like a strategic vision. While it was a challenge at first, those who embraced the vision are now transforming our organization through member experience and our impact in the community.
3. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
Serving as a catalyst of change. At both the American Diabetes Association and the YMCA of Metropolitan Denver, I was tasked with transforming the organizations to ensure sustainability, relevance and greater mission impact.
4. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career?
As a woman in leadership, I have often faced challenges because of gender bias and/or age. On many occasions I’ve had to prove my competence. This was magnified at my arrival to the Y. I’m a firm believer in having confidence in your competence and I encourage young women professionals to hold to that truth.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other community recreation professionals can learn from?
I’m still learning to listen with intent and to ask curious questions.
6. Tell us one fact about yourself others may not know.
I lived in Damascus, Syria, from the age of four to 11. That experience gave me a deep appreciation of other cultures and perspectives.